By Beth Rotto, Cheese & Chill Buyer
Time marches on. Yes, I’m stable, persistent, enduring. I’ve spent my entire adult life involved with Oneota Community Co-op. At age 20, I volunteered to do childcare at the Co-op annual meeting and now it’s 40 years later. I’m still here, happily and solidly spending my working days keeping up our refrigerated case and providing all of you with the best selection of cheese in northeast Iowa.
What I’m leading up to is the fact that I turned 60 years old recently. It was a landmark birthday, and I was able to do something extra special. Accepting an invitation, I joined three college friends to hike in England on the Cotswold Way, a historic trail through sheep fields and villages built of honey colored limestone. It was our pleasure to find a pub or a tea room in a hamlet or village serving refreshments including British cheeseboards of fantastic, local cheese, which delighted me to no end.
I’ve said it before, but it’s the milk that makes the cheese. The milk is based on the animal and what it eats, which is based on the distinctive soil and the weather. There are many classic and historic cheese from Europe that are unique to a very specific locale. Some are name protected by law so that only cheese made in that certain specific area with traditional methods can use the name (PDO- Protected Designation of Origin).
Since certain cheeses are both one-of-a-kind and distinctive and used in ethnic and traditional cooking, we offer a steady supply of a number of classic European cheeses at the Co-op, along with our great selection of local, regional and American artisan cheeses.
We regularly carry these outstanding European cheeses (and more).
Brie from France – A rich and creamy soft-ripened cow’s milk cheese covered with a white rind. The cheese is often served warm or baked and is often topped with preserves or fruit. Look for either Couronne or Ermitage Brie. A party darling.
Manchego from Spain – A firm sheep milk cheese. Great by itself, shredded on a salad or into mashed potatoes and good with dates or fig preserves. A historic hero of a cheese.
Gruyere from the Alps – A hard cheese from France or Switzerland. Excellent for baking as in quiche, or melted as in fondue or french onion soup, or added to make a classic ham sandwich. Can also be grated on salad or pasta. We try to keep Comte Gruyere on hand. A superstar in the kitchen.
Gouda from the Netherlands (also called Dutch or Holland Gouda) – Mild and semi-soft when young (we sometimes have the harder, more flavorful aged gouda too). Good for sandwiches or snacking. Who doesn’t like Gouda?
Parmigiano Reggiano from Italy – Aged, hard, granular raw milk cheese excellent for grating over pasta dishes, stirred into risottos or soup or sprinkled over salads. A celebrity Italian cheese.
Cheddar from England – A popular cow’s milk cheese produced by a special method originating in England. Aging produces stronger flavor. Some versions are smoked or flavored with red onions. Look for Ticklers, Quickes or Kingdom brands. Versatile and beloved.
Geitost (or Gjetost) from Norway – A type of goat or goat/cow’s milk whey cheese that is a brunost or brown cheese. Its caramelized flavor is often served in thin slices on dark bread with preserves for breakfast. Look for Gudbrandsdalsost in bulk or Tine Ski Queen in the red package. An iconic Norwegian food.
Look for other European cheese at Oneota Co-op too (as you can imagine, I’m bringing in Cotswold cheese currently). We do carry an even larger selection near the holidays.
Look for more domestic sheep’s milk cheese (and hopefully butter) in our store as a result of my delightful hiking among the Cotswold sheep. I just love sheep’s cheese – its milk is rich and full of nutrition. Many people find sheep milk cheese very appealing. Have you tried it?